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Why are standardized field sobriety tests the default?

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2021 | Drunk Driving |

When an officer pulls you over on a routine stop, they may notice some potentially suspicious signs. They can then put you through sobriety tests in order to determine if their hunch is right and you are driving under the influence.

What is one of the first tests you will likely face in such a scenario? Field sobriety tests: in particular, standardized field sobriety tests. These serve as the default for all field sobriety tests. But why?

The purpose of standardization

VeryWell Mind takes a look at standardized field sobriety tests. They differ from non-standardized tests in one major way: they have a rubric. All standardized tests have the same rubric across the states. This means police everywhere judge by the same set of rules.

This is crucial because it helps cut down on officer bias in a test that admittedly has a lot of wiggle room for interpretation. Before standardization, officers simply judged field sobriety tests based on their own personal view of whether or not a person passed or failed. This left room for officer bias to affect the results. For example, an officer might judge people of one ethnicity harshly compared to people of their own ethnicity.

Court recognition of bias

Standardization allows some of that bias to get removed. Courts recognize that all forms of field sobriety tests have room for interpretation, though. It is not an exact tool of measurement. In fact, officers often use it just to confirm that they need to do further testing.

If you face a standardized field sobriety test and fail it, consider contacting legal help. Although these tests are not the deciding factor in most DUI cases, you should still take it seriously.